Buying property in Thailand can be very difficult as foreigners are not allowed to own land outright under Thai law. There is a small exception however you need to invest millions in Thailand and obtain approval from the Minister of Interior for you to own a few Rai or land in Thailand. Most expats and foreigners invest in a house in rural Thailand and place the house into the names of their Thai spouse. This can however become a problem if you divorce later.
The usufruct is primarily the right to use and manage another person’s immovable property and receive the fruits or benefits thereof. This has to be registered against the property title deed at the land office in Thailand. There are however limits to this in Thailand when it comes to foreigners. You may live in the house and also rent out the house and receive rent however the rental agreement may not be longer than 3 years. Note that the usufruct does not give you the right to sell the property.
Usufruct and Marriage in Thailand
If you are going to lease land in Southern Thailand to grow Palm Oil as an example you can use the land and derive the benefits from the land (Palm Oil) however note that farming is a prohibited profession in Thailand for foreigners. Always speak to a lawyer in Thailand about the property and what you wish to do with the property before you sign or agree to a usufruct or lease agreement.
Usufruct’s are registered to a maximum of 30 years in Thailand however should you die before the 30 years lapse the usufruct would normally come to an end with your death. If the usufruct was registered in your name and in the name of another being 2 people on the usufruct then the other person will still have a right to the usufruct after your death. When you do have a usufruct over a property you are responsible to maintaining the property. Should you not maintain the property and damages occur due to neglect then the property owner can ask for damages and also to have the usufruct cancelled.
A very good example of 2 people on a usufruct is if you take a usufruct on property in the name of you and your wife. Should you die before the 30 years have lapsed your wife will still have a right to live in the property as before. Most expats in Thailand when leasing property and making use of a usufruct over a property neither of them own tend to include their wife in the registration of the usufruct as a usufruct cannot be inherited or transferred. See another property option such as the right of superficies which can be inherited.
Most usufructs in Thailand tend to be registered as a security in the event of a divorce in Thailand. The usufruct is only one option as there is also a prenuptial agreement or at times a better option such as superficies which may be a better option. It is always best to speak to a property lawyer in Thailand if you are looking at buying property or speak to a family lawyer about a prenuptial agreement before you register your marriage in Thailand.